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A new Word of the Year seizes its place?

The most striking thing about one of this year's leading contenders for Word of the Year may be how straightforward it is.

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Here we are, still polishing off Thanksgiving leftovers, and already it's time to pick a Word, or Words, of the Year.

What kind of Words of the Year do we want? A blog at, "The Hot Word," noted that the online reference polled its Facebook audience to find out: "Overwhelmingly, voters said it should be a complex word that exemplifies the spirit of 2011."

A strong contender at this point: occupy, from the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and its related Occupy [Your Place Here] offshoots.

In an "On the Media" interview, Ben Zimmer, head of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, said: Occupy "is this extremely useful word for the movement because as it spread[s] to other cities, it can very easily just work as a kind of a template. Occupy blank, Occupy the-name-of-your-town-here...."

The most striking thing about occupy is how straightforward it is. It's an actual word that's already in all the dictionaries, and it's made its name this year in a usage that goes back centuries. Compare, by contrast, unfriend, the New Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2009.

Occupy, meaning "to take possession of," goes back to the mid-14th century, ultimately from the Latin occupare, where it meant essentially the same thing, but with a more forceful sense of "grasp" or "seize." That's the meaning of the Latin word capere, from which it derives. (It's also related to capire, "to understand" or "to 'get' " something – capisce?)


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